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Miami, FL Law Blog for Entertainment Law, Business Law, and Public Interest

Monday, March 26, 2012

Florida financial firm sued over cancelled IPO

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

With large business opportunities come large business risks. When several companies come together to pursue a common goal there is often a great deal of optimism and positive messages about the future of the joint venture. Contracts are signed and hands are shaken as all the parties begin to try to carry out their responsibilities under the agreement. It is at this point that plans can sometimes go off the rails, deadlines and payment may be missed and the finger pointing begins.

A Florida financial firm now finds itself involved in a commercial lawsuit as part of a joint venture that was intended to facilitate the initial public offering of a security alarm servicing company. The lawsuit claims that the Florida firm, along with its partner intentionally destroyed the alarm servicing company by cancelling the IPO. They claimed that his was a breach of their contract and amounted to a "double cross."

The lawsuit indicates that the decision to cancel the IPO was an assertion on the part of the Florida firm and its partner that the alarm company had defaulted on a payment on an $85 million loan. It appears that the allegedly missed loan payment was supposed to come about as a result of an IPO by the alarm company on March 1. When the IPO did not happen the Florida firm stepped in and cancelled the IPO that was expected to close in April.

In response the alarm company says that they have actually paid $47 million and that they had not, in fact, defaulted on their loan payment. The alarm company is seeking $20 million in damages as a result of the cancelled IPO.

Source: Reuters, "Siemens sued for calling off alarm company IPO," Karen Freifeld, March 22, 2012


Friday, March 23, 2012

A little live music at a restaurant becomes a complicated licensing dispute

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

They say that music may aid digestion. The right live music can certainly add a great ambiance to a nice dinner out at a restaurant. One restaurant owner in Miami Springs, being both a chef and a musician decided that he would entertain his patrons not only with his food but also with music. But know the restaurant owner is facing a potential copyright infringement lawsuit.

When music is played at a public venue, even a restaurant, it is can considered a public performance. If the owner of the rights to that music have not granted a license to the venue they may be infringing. There are exemptions for certain situations. For a restaurant these depend on the size of the restaurant, whether a cover charge is collected and a number of other factors.

In this case the minstrel restaurant owner had actually been paying a licensing fee to one licensing group, BMI. He explained that he thought that this was sufficient. It seems that it was not his intention to avoid compensating the rights holders of the music he was performing. But BMI is not the only entity that holds rights to music, and the other large rights holder has now sent the restaurant notices and is seeking a separate licensing fee.

This situation is interesting in that the restaurant owner, being a musician himself, recognized the value in the songs he was performing and had been paying a licensing fee. But because of the complicated nature of intellectual property rights surrounding music, still found himself running afoul of other rights holders. Hopefully this situation can be resolved in a manner that will ensure that the creators of the music are appropriately compensated while still allowing this chef to play his guitar and sing for his customers.

Source: The Miami Herald, "Music industry targets small restaurant," Theo Karantsalis, March 20, 2012


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eric Church battles unapproved vendors at U.S. shows

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

A popular singer has filed a lawsuit against a group of traveling unlicensed vendors who sell products at his concerts. Eric Church, a well-known country rocker, says that the vendors are distributing unofficial merchandise at concert sites throughout the nation. They hide, run away, or discard the goods when they are approached by Church's employees, the lawsuit says. Church is currently promoting his Blood, Sweat and Beers tour.

Court documents that were filed in U.S. District Court earlier this year assert that the vendors are causing huge financial losses for both the star and his group of employees. The vendors are selling items with Church's image and name at the events. The lawsuit is pursuing a federal court order that will allow the seizure of unlicensed goods at concert locations. This, Church's attorneys say, will halt the de facto theft of innumerable sums of money from the singer's coffers. Church says that he is also concerned about the counterfeit merchandise damaging his reputation and image.

Church is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the case, and he also is pursuing an injunction to stop the production and sale of the counterfeit items. Church has also battled ticket scalpers, who purchase tickets at low prices and then sell them on the concert grounds for profit. Church says that he was shocked at the rapidity with which the scalpers sold the tickets, but he is optimistic about overall ticket sales for his shows. He says that he doesn't mind pursuing legal action against these offenders to protect his workers and his own reputation.

Church is currently touring in locations throughout the East Coast.

Source: The Boot, "Eric Church Lawsuit Aims to Stop Illegal Concert Vendors," Gayle Thompson, March 15, 2012


Friday, March 16, 2012

Hulk Hogan's breach of contract suit dismissed

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Many performers enter into contracts with managers without fully understanding the scope of the contractual obligations both on themselves and on their new managers. Generally an entertainer simply wants to be able to focus on their acting or singing, while the manager takes care of the details in a way that promotes the best interest of the performer. Many times this works out well for both parties. But when either side misunderstands the scope of the obligations it can mean that each side's expectations of the other may not be accurate.

Former professional wrestler Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, filed a lawsuit against his former manager claiming a breach of contract because he claimed she did not acquire sufficient insurance coverage to protect his assets. As you may know this case is a little more complicated because his former manager is also his ex-wife.

The issue arose after Hogan's son was driving one of Hogan's cars and was in a car accident. The passenger in the car was seriously injured and left in a vegetative state. The final settlement between Hogan and the family of the injured victim was not released, but it was reported that the automobile insurance policy limited coverage to $250,000 likely much less than the cost of the settlement.

Hogan claimed in his lawsuit that as his manager, his ex-wife had a fiduciary duty under Florida law to understand the potential liability risks facing the family and if necessary provide insurance or other tools to mitigate the risk to the family's assets.

The lawsuit was dismissed this week though without reaching the underlying substantive issues. Instead the judge determined that the Marital Settlement Agreement between the parties, that was part of their divorce, released the ex-wife from any additional potential liability.

Source: Fox News, "Hulk Hogan's breach of contract lawsuit against ex-wife thrown out of court," Hollie McKay March 15, 2012
 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rappers settle with "Different Strokes" artist

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Acclaimed music artists Jay-Z and Kanye West have settled their federal lawsuit brought by Syl Johnson, a songwriter who alleged that the two men illegally sampled his song "Different Strokes" on a deluxe version of the album Watch the Throne. Legal documents that were filed this week showed that the case had been dismissed after Johnson and the two rappers reached a settlement. Details about the settlement remained undisclosed.

Johnson, who has also pursued similar action against rappers before, is including a $29 million case against music group Cypress Hill. That suit was dismissed in 2008 because of a copyright law loophole; sound recordings created earlier than Feb. 15, 1972 are not considered protected by the Copyright Protection Act. Johnson then decided to sue his legal team after an appeal certified the ruling's validity. In addition to those suits, Johnson has filed against the Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill, Kid Rock and Michael Jackson.

Copyright law protects works of art in the modern world, including musical compositions and performances. Although it was originally created to protect musicians from the evils of plagiarism, copyright law now sometimes weaves a complicated web for musical artists. Even a short reproduction of a few phrases can lead to legal violations.

Musicians and producers debate about whether the legal environment is unduly sculpted by corporate entities. Excessive controls can be seen as either protective or limiting. Some argue that sampling music should be freely allowed to guarantee the continued integrity of the artistic process.

Experts say that many legal actions are only available to those with significant resources, citing landmark cases such as those involving Metallica and their continued and sometimes excessive litigious actions. These debates will continue to rage throughout the artistic community as information technology allows for easier theft of intellectual property.

Source: Rolling Stone, "Kanye West and Jay-Z Settle Syl Johnson Lawsuit," March 12, 2012


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Parodies or infringement

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Parodies are protected under the First Amendment, according to a Florida Company accused of infringement against a popular singer. With the increasing popularity of casual gaming on smart phones, the gaming industry reaches out to those who are not hardcore gamers. Films, albums, and other arenas often include a smart phone app in their advertising arsenal.

A Florida company released a game with a name and a cartoon likeness similar to Justin Bieber. Bieber's attorney handed the company a "cease and desist" notice, which gave the developer two days to remove the app from the market. The notice threatened legal action by Bieber if the gaming company did not remove the app within two days.

The gaming company refused to do so. It also argued that its title was protected under the United States' First Amendment. It based its claim on a United States Supreme Court ruling that said video games were products of expression, just like movies, music and books. When that ruling came out in June 2011, it received a great amount of press coverage because it knocked out another state's law restricting violent game sales to minors.

The Florida company maintains that the app is not an infringement, but does poke fun at the singer. The game is available on the App Store, and allows "Beaver" to sign "otter-graphs" and tilt against "photo-hogs."

Source: GameZebo, "Joustin' Beaver drama continues as RC3 files pre-emptive lawsuit against Justin Bieber" Nadia Oxford, Feb. 28, 2012


Monday, March 5, 2012

Is Pinterest simply a vehicle for infringement?

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

If you have not yet heard of the online service Pinterest, you likely soon will. Pinterest is one of the fastest growing online social spaces reported to draw more than 10 million visitors each month. The concept is fairly simple. When a user finds something that they like online they 'pin' it to their 'board.' This results in most boards containing photographs of projects, designs or meals that an individual user has collected from all over the internet.

As you can imagine this quickly raises questions of copyright infringement regarding these images. It seems likely that the vast majority of these images are being reposted without the consent of the person who owns the rights to the image.

The rather lengthy Terms of Use agreement for Pinterest forces users to acknowledge that they actually do have the intellectual property rights to any content that you post. Furthermore you must agree to indemnify, that is reimburse the company, for any damages and legal fees that the company incurs as the result of your content. It seems that they are providing a vehicle that is ripe for users to unthinkingly violate the copyrights of the original content holders and then trying to avoid any potential responsibility they may face.

It is difficult to tell how this will play out in real life if and when it become the focus of intellectual property disputes. This has led at least one user, with some knowledge of intellectual property law to remove all of her content. She did indicate however that the founder of Pinterest did reach out to her to address her concerns and shared planned to make changes to their terms of use to address this issue.

Source: ABA Journal, "Pin with Caution, Says Lawyer Who Deleted All Her Pinterest Posts," Stephanie Francis Ward, Feb. 29, 2012


Friday, March 2, 2012

Bank sues Florida man in check-kiting scheme

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Sarasota police and the United States Secret Service are investigating an alleged kiting scheme involving a Florida businessman, who is now involved in a lawsuit. The man was working with an advertising company in a different state. The advertising company received and repaid short-term loans from the Florida businessman.

In a check-kiting scheme, more than one bank account is used to move money, then withdraw the money. For example, a check-kiter might write a check for $10,000 on an account with only $1,000 in it. The check-kiter withdraws another large amount from the second bank to get cash before the first check bounces.

The advertising company became associated with the lawsuit, which was filed by the bank, but is not named as a defendant. The detective working the case stated that the advertising company is not a suspect in the case. The out-of-state advertising agency has offices in Sarasota. The check-kiting scheme cost the bank about $9.8 million.

The Florida business man used an account at the bank in the name of one of his other companies in the alleged check-kiting scheme. That company is in the same building as the advertising company's Florida offices, as is the bank involved in the check-kiting scheme.

The businessman deposited 260 checks from the advertising company into a bank account that totaled millions of dollars. In the end of January, another bank refused to honor some of the checks - about $14.8 million worth. The advertising company had enough in its bank account to cover the checks, but the businessman instructed him to cancel 33 checks, thus causing the bank to refuse to honor them. During this transaction, the businessman was still withdrawing money from the bank that is suing him. He sent millions (not specified) back to the advertising company before the plaintiff bank learned that the other bank was not going to honor the checks.

Source: Fayo Observer, "Lender to Smith Advertising & Associates facing lawsuit in Florida," Paul Woolverton, Feb. 23, 2012
 


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Naked Cowboy files lawsuit against soap opera

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

The Naked Cowboy plays guitar and sings in Times Square. He wears only a hat, cowboy boots and briefs while he sings and plays. And files lawsuits.

In February 2011, the Naked Cowboy filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against CBS because the network allegedly used a likeness of him in a daytime television show. This is not the first lawsuit he has filed due to his trademark being allegedly infringed upon.

CBS televised the alleged likeness on its "The Bold and the Beautiful" soap opera. The character on the show played a guitar and wore only cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and briefs. The Naked Cowboy also objected to a clip from the show that CBS posted on Google Inc.'s YouTube video site. The character in "The Bold and the Beautiful" was used as an identifier in that clip.

The United States District Judge denied the Naked Cowboy's claim and said that "even an unsophisticated viewer" would not get CBS's version of the Naked Cowboy confused with the "real" Naked Cowboy. The court said that the Naked Cowboy's costume is distinctive. It has "Naked Cowboy" on the hat, briefs and guitar. The costume also has "Tips" and "$" on his boots. The character on the soap opera had none of this on his costume. The Judge also stated that even though the Naked Cowboy was on television numerous times, none of the appearances suggested that the Naked Cowboy wanted to transition into "creating and producing a daytime soap opera."

The Naked Cowboy has appeared on several television spots and music videos over the years. He even auditioned for American Idol in Season 1, but did not make it to the next round. He was also part of numerous advertising campaigns.

Source: Bloomberg, "CBS, Proview, Sony Vita, Premier League, Fairey: Intellectual Property," Victoria Slind-Flor, Feb 27, 2012


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Paramount seeks to quash 'Godfather' book prequel

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

There are a number of movie franchises that stand apart in the minds and wallets of the public. For example, while many die-hard fans of the original Star Wars trilogy criticized the three new prequels, it is very likely that they all went to the theatre to see the films. The films also brought in an entire new generation of fans. Once a studio has done the heavy lifting of established a brand like 'Indiana Jones' or, in this case, the 'Godfather' it may go to great lengths to protect its brand.

Last week, Paramount Pictures filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the planned July publication of the book "The Family Corleone." The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the publication of the book as well as damages.

The book at issue was adapted from an unfinished screenplay by Mario Puzo, he shared two best screenplay Oscars for his writing on "The Godfather" and "The Godfather II." But paramount claims that it purchased the copyright for the "Godfather" in 1969. Mario Puzo's son, Anthony, is behind the proposed publication of the prequel. The Studio did have an agreement with Anthony Puzo to publish one sequel. This first sequel was well received by boththe public and critics. A second sequel, that Paramount claims was not authorized, was much less well received by both critics and the public.

The integrity of a movie or book franchise is key to its ongoing ability to generate profits. The same is true for individual singers and actors, after doing all of the initial legwork to develop a successful brand, it is important to protect it so that you can enjoy its success rather than have others who improperly try to cash in

Source: Daily News, "Studio wants 'Godfather' prequel whacked," Robert Gearty, Feb. 21, 2012
 


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Charlie Sheen and former producer clash

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Famed actor Charlie Sheen might have been booted from his role on the hit television sitcom "Two and a Half Men," but producers of the show are saying he took something with him. This is causing a dispute between the two sides.
Since his highly-publicized departure from the show, Sheen has moved on and is slated to star in a new show called "Anger Management," broadcasted on FX channel. But Sheen is angering Warner Bros., which produced "Two and a Half Men," because the actor is apparently using promotional photos from that show to promote his upcoming venture.

At the recent National Association of Television Program Executives Conference, a photo was distributed that showed Sheen wearing a leather jacket and sitting on a motorcycle. This photo was originally produced by Warner Bros. in efforts to promote "Two and a Half Men".

Warner Bros. promptly issued a cease-and-desist letter to both the actor and Debmar-Mercury, which is producing Sheen's new show. In the letter, Warner Bros. alleged that both parties are unjustly using the company's intellectual property. Warner Bros. also took great exception to the fact that their intellectual property was used to promote a rivaling television show.

Warner Bros. insisted that both parties stop using the photo. While the producers of Sheen's new show did not release an official comment, those close to the case said that the photo would not be used again.

Sheen, which sued Warner Bros. for $100 million after he was axed from the show, continued to voice his hatred for the show and its producers. He told media that if Warner Bros. worried more about their show and less about what he was doing, "Two and a Half Men" would not be such a bad show.

Source: ABC News, "Warner Bros. Demands Charlie Sheen Stop Using 'Two and a Half Men' Publicity Photos," Feb. 16, 2012


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